Kathleen DiChiara was left devastated after her son, Stephen, with diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
After months of therapy did not help improve his condition, the mother-of-three, from Rhode Island, decided to try an all-organic diet free of GMOs and Roundup.
Suddenly, she said, his social communication challenges and repetitive behaviors were gone.
That is the story at the heart of the controversial new documentary Secret Ingredients, released on Wednesday, which presents different accounts of people claiming several health issues they had were gone after a transition to a similar diet.
But top scientists in the fields of agriculture and pesticides have hit back, saying this is false, unsubstantiated propaganda.
Claims presented in the documentary include skin rashes that have cleared up, tumors that have disappeared, and even infertile couples that are now able to have children.
The filmmakers say this is because Roundup’s main active ingredient destroys the gut’s microbiome and, when it’s removed from a diet, the body starts to ‘heal’.
But food scientists and agricultural experts told DailyMail.com there is no evidence to support these claims – and warn that people have a tendency to view documentaries as unbiased even if this isn’t the case.
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A new documentary called Secret Ingredients is sharing stories of people who say health issues were cleared up after they transitioned to an all-organic diet free of GMOs and Roundup. Among them is Kathleen DiChiara (pictured) whose son was diagnosed with autism
DiChiara says that after her son Stephen (pictured) switched to the diet, his social communication challenges and repetitive behaviors were gone
Filmmakers Jeffrey Smith (left) and Amy Hart (right) say this is because Roundup’s main active ingredient, glyphosate, destroys the gut’s microbiome and, when it’s removed from a diet, the body starts to ‘heal’
Glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup, is an herbicide first registered for use in the US in 1974 by Monsanto as an effective way of killing weeds while leaving crops and plants intact.
Glyphosate-based products are sold in more than 160 countries, and farmers use it on 250 types of crops in California alone, which is the leading farming state in the US.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization found that the herbicide is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.
Then, in 2017, California named glyphosate an ingredient that causes cancer under the state’s Proposition 65, which requires Roundup to carry a warning label if sold in California.
Monsanto says glyphosate is safe and that its product has undergone stringent testing.
The weed killer was recently at the center of a trial in which a California jury found Roundup was responsible for giving groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, 46, terminal cancer and awarded him $78million.
In Secret Ingredients, filmmakers Jeffrey Smith and Amy Hart say glyphosate damages the microbiome, by killing ‘friendly bacteria’ in the form of probiotics but not other bacteria such as E coli.
They say that without this good gut bacteria, we cannot produce compounds from certain amino acids which regulate the immune system, metabolism and the production of vitamins.
THE SAGA SURROUNDING THE SAFETY OF GLYPHOSATE
Glyphosate is an herbicide first registered for use in the US in 1974.
It is marketed either as a salt or an amber-colored liquid with no smell.
Monsanto markets glyphosate as part of the pesticide Roundup.
Several studies found that high doses administered to laboratory animals caused cancer, although the evidence is ‘limited’ when it comes to humans.
In March 2015, the World Health Organizatrion ranked glyphosate a Group 2a carcinogen, a substance that probably causes cancer in people.
In 2017, California added glyphosate to its proposition 65 list, which requires Roundup to carry a warning label if sold in California.
Monsanto has vehemently denied that its product causes cancer and says and more than 800 studies that have established its safety.
Yet more than 4,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits – 800 over the past year – claiming Monsanto made them or members of their family sick.
This allegedly results in several health issues including food allergies, asthma, cancer, tumors, infertility and even autism spectrum disorders.
‘There is enough evidence that Roundup may be one of the most serious contributors to ill health on the planet,’ Smith told Daily Mail Online.
Smith said that, at various film festivals that the pair have attended, they’ve conducted informal pre- and post-film surveys.
‘We ask audiences how much organic food they eat before and after the film and how likely they are to share it,’ Smith said.
‘It appears that the film may be the most efficient tool yet to compel people switch [to organic diet] because virtually everyone [says they plan to eat more organic food] and wants to share the movie.’
Smith and Hart say they believe the film will result in a ‘global tsunami’.
‘This is a tool that will be used around the world and change the food supply and I can speak from a level of confidence,’ said Smith.
Scientists say this is dangerous because people often view documentaries as unbiased, even if this is not necessarily the case.
Dr Taylor Ruth, an assistant professor of agricultural communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says she has seen a growing number of people making choices about their diet from documentaries.
‘It’s different than the material that comes out of universities,’ she told Daily Mail Online.
‘Documentaries are packaged in a narrative way, they’re emotional and talk about families and kids and people can connect with that.
‘But are these viewers making their choices based on facts or based on feelings? It’s important for people to do their own research.’
According to Dr Bruce Chassy, Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – who has been critical of Smith in the past – this can lead to a dangerous culture of belief.
‘The anti-GMO crowd has published several papers and these claims have been rejected by the scientific community,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
He says there is also no evidence that glyphosate poses any toxological risk from what people consume in their diets.
‘There is no scientific paper or corroborating papers that prove it causes asthma, autism, allergies,’ said Dr Chassy.
Food scientists and agricultural experts say there are no scientific papers or corroborating papers that have found glyphosate causes asthma, autism or allergies. Pictured: Roundup
The weed killer was recently at the center of a trial in which a California jury found Roundup was responsible for giving groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, 46 (pictured), terminal cancer
Experts say they are also skeptical because the filmmakers do not possess scientific or agricultural degrees, but Smith and Hart say they welcome skepticism. Pictured: Johnson’s hand covered in lesions
‘And there is no evidence that glyphosate is any less safe than any other pesticide, it’s probably as safe as baking soda or salt.’
This is controversial in its own right because several studies found that high doses of glyphosate administered to laboratory animals caused cancer, although the evidence is ‘limited’ when it comes to humans.
When Smith appeared on the Dr Oz show in 2012 to speak about the purported dangers of GMOS, Dr Chassy had been contacted before it aired.
He told producers he was skeptical of the fact that Smith does not have a degree in science or agriculture and asked that the show present a more balanced, scientific perspective on GM foods and crops.
‘I think it’s dangerous when people get misinformed about science and diet and how they spend their money based on false claims and don’t look to things that can actually improve their health like diet and exercise.’
Hart and Smith say they’re not asking people to follow them blindly and welcome skepticism among viewers.
‘We’re not asking people to believe Amy Hart and Jeffrey Smith. We have assembled experts, data, and people who have the same story,’ said Smith.
‘If people are skeptical, they don’t have to believe, but they should try [an organic diet] themselves.
‘We don’t believe everyone who goes on an organic diet will have an epiphany and all of their health issues will be solved. But a percentage will.’